The most powerful man in Asia, Mukesh Ambani, between flair and connivance

Indian press praises “His intuitions”. But if Mukesh Ambani is a monument of Indian capitalism, who this summer became the richest man in Asia thanks to the raising of 20 billion dollars (17 billion euros) from investors in America and the Gulf, it is above all that he is endowed with a dual flair, that of business and that of politics. Ranked today number five in the world by the magazine Forbes, his fortune was estimated, Thursday, October 15, at 85.4 billion dollars, which places him ahead of Steve Balmer (Microsoft) and Larry Page (Google).

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The owner of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) presents an atypical profile in the world of high-tech. The conglomerate inherited from his father took root in the 1960s, in textiles, petrochemicals and mass distribution. It was not until 2016 that Mukesh took the big turn, with the launch of the telecom operator Jio, which then gave birth to optical fiber (Jio Fiber) and e-commerce (JioMart), now united under the banner of the giant portal Jio Platforms.

A humiliation for the younger brother Anil, heir to half of dad’s empire, which he never knew how to make fruitful. He hoped to take advantage of the Rafale contract signed by Dassault Aviation with the Indian army in 2016, and had also attempted a foray into telecoms before selling everything off to his elder brother in early 2020.

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At Dalal Street, the Bombay Stock Exchange, traders consider Mukesh Ambani to be “The only boss who understood the interest of moving from heavy industry to data, the oil of the future”, reports an analyst of the place.

A $ 1 billion tower

Born in Aden (Yemen) in 1957, Mukesh would have been initiated, at the age of 14, “The importance of exercising professions capable of withstanding economic shocks”, told, in early September, the weekly Open. Trained at the very chic Saint-Xavier high school in Bombay, he became a chemical engineer and went on to do an MBA at Stanford (California), where he worked alongside Steve Ballmer. When his father, Dhirubhai Ambani, died in 2002, his mother, Kokilaben, took over to train him.

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But time flies. And even if it still happens to the businessman to descend from the megalomaniac tower to 1 billion dollars that he had built in 2010 on a slum, to go to swallow in the street of idli-sambar (small steamed rice cakes, accompanied by a curry) with his wife Nita, he is now engaged in the project to connect the whole of India to broadband internet at an affordable price.

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